Five-game offensive skid buries any remaining postseason hope for Yankees

At least this team makes me laugh sometimes. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
At least this team makes me laugh sometimes. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Let’s start with the obvious: the Yankees have struggled to score runs all season. This recent five-game skid is more of a 2014 skid than a five-game skid, though things have been especially bad since Friday. The Yankees have scored six runs total in their last five games, or one fewer run than the Angels scored in 3.2 innings against Hisashi Iwakuma last night. Iwakuma finished third in the AL Cy Young voting last year. In related news, the Halos became the first team to clinch a postseason spot last night.

The Yankees scored those six runs on four solo homers (Chris Young, Martin Prado, two by Brian McCann), a single by September call-up and minor league journeyman Antoan Richardson, and a steal of home against a rookie catcher. Richardson stole second and when Caleb Joseph tried to throw him out, Young trotted home. That’s all the offense since Friday. The Yankees were shut out twice, scored one run once, scored two runs once, and broke out for three runs on Saturday.

According to Katie Sharp, the six runs are the fewest the Yankees have scored in a five-game span since late-June/early-July way back in 1997. They’ve hit .175/.239/.271 as a team during these five games, which is so bad that I’m not even upset. I’m amazed more than anything. As I’m sure you know after watching these last few days, it takes a total team effort to be this feeble offensively in five straight games. Here’s a real quick breakdown of the team-wide offensive malaise:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury: 2-for-21 (.095) with no walks or extra-base hits
  2. Martin Prado: 7-for-18 (.389) with a homer and no walks
  3. Brian McCann: 3-for-16 (.188) with two homers and two walks (.278 OBP)
  4. Chris Young: 4-for-15 (.267) with two doubles, a homer, and two walks (.353 OBP)
  5. Mark Teixeira: 2-for-14 (.143) with no extra-base hits and three walks (.294 OBP)
  6. Brett Gardner: 1-for-14 (.071) with two walks (.188 OBP)
  7. Derek Jeter: 0-for-11 with one walk (.083 OBP)
  8. Ichiro Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy: both 1-for-7 (.143) with a walk (.250 OBP)
  9. Everyone Else: 6-for-30 (.200) with no extra-base hits and one walk (.226 OBP)

Prado is playing on one good hamstring and he’s still the best hitter on the team. Naturally, his season is now over due to an emergency appendectomy. Young has had a nice run of late and I’m inclined to give McCann a pass for these last five games because his two solo homers account for one-third of the team’s total offense. The rest of them? Terrible. It’s not even a bad luck thing. Most of their at-bats are bad and their contact is weak. Subjectively, of course.

“As well as we’ve pitched, we didn’t need to be great (offensively). We just needed to be good. And we haven’t been,” said Gardner to Chad Jennings following last night’s loss. “You feel like you’re due at some point. I don’t feel like it’s been a couple of games. I feel like it’s been pretty much all season. We’ve had flashes of being pretty good, but for the most part, we’ve just struggled to get guys across the plate … It’s just really frustrating. Guys are working really hard. Guys are trying. Guys are putting in the effort. For one reason or another, we’re just not getting it done.”

The offense has gone stagnant and the Yankees were officially eliminated from the AL East race last night. They can be eliminated from the wildcard race as soon as Friday. This past weekend was their last gasp, their final opportunity make a run and start an improbable comeback, but instead the offense fell flat on its collective face. At a time when the Yankees needed their lineup to be at its absolute best, they responded with their lowest scoring five-game stretch in 17 years.

Update: Prado out for season following appendectomy, Yankees call up Jose Pirela

12:05pm: The Yankees officially announced Prado is done for the year following the appendectomy. He has been placed on the 60-day DL and utility man Jose Pirela was called up. Pirela, 24, hit .305/.351/.441 (117 wRC+) with ten homers and 15 steals with Triple-A Scranton this year. He was due to become a minor league free agent after the season and was a borderline 40-man roster candidate.

11:12am: Martin Prado will likely miss the remainder of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, according to Meredith Marakovits. The season ends in 12 days and most players need several weeks to recover from an appendectomy, though Matt Holliday only missed seven games following the procedure a few years ago. Holliday is the exception, not the rule. The Yankees are out of the race and there’s no sense in rushing Prado back though. Let him heal up and get ready for next year.

Unlike Castillo, Tomas may be the Cuban player who fits the Yankees

One thing is very clear with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season: the Yankees need to improve their offense this offseason. They tried to do it last winter by signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann to big free agent contracts (while simultaneously letting one of the best hitters in world leave) but it didn’t work. They’re on pace to score only 627 runs this year, 23 fewer than last year.

The Yankees are locked into players at catcher, first base, left field, center field, maybe third base, and either right field or DH already, so their options to fix the offense are limited. Martin Prado is going to play somewhere — I’d prefer second base until the inevitable Alex Rodriguez injury, but that’s just me — leaving shortstop and either right field or DH as the most obvious places to add an impact bat. There are slated to be plenty of free agent shortstops but not as many impact outfielders outside of Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz.

The free agent market is likely to add another potential impact outfield bat in the coming weeks, when MLB officially declares Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas a free agent. (It’s Yasmany, not Yasmani, apparently.) Jesse Sanchez and Ben Balder report that Tomas has already established residency in Haiti and has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an important step needed to become a free agent. Badler says MLB should declare him a free to sign relatively soon.

Tomas, 23, defected back in June and he is scheduled to hold a showcase for scouts in the Dominican Republic this Saturday, according to Badler and Tomas. There’s no word on whether the Yankees (or any other team, for that matter) will be in attendance, but they’ve gone to see every other notable Cuban free agent at their workouts, so I expect them to be there just to do due diligence, at the very least. Here’s what we know about Tomas, first from Sanchez:

Tomas is known for his power and he has a reputation for launching long home runs, but he’s also prone to big swing and misses. He’s agile for his size, and he has a strong arm, but there is room for improvement on defense. As a result, he’s characterized as “high-risk, high-reward” type of player in some international scouting circles. He is said to be in much better physical shape and has worked on his approach at the plate since leaving the island.

And now from Badler:

At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Tomas is a righthanded hitter with plus-plus raw power, although with some swing-and-miss tendencies, and a strong arm that should fit in right field. A standout on Cuba’s 2013 World Baseball Classic team, Tomas hit .290/.346/.450 with six home runs, 21 walks and 46 strikeouts in 257 plate appearances this past season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional.

One scout told Nick Cafardo that Tomas will likely command upwards of $100M while Jay Alou, Tomas’ agent, told Jorge Ebro (translated article) he is shooting for a record deal this winter. The contracts for big name Cuban free agents are only getting bigger and bigger, going from Yoenis Cespedes ($36M) to Yasiel Puig ($42M) to Jose Abreu ($68M) to Rusney Castillo ($72M, the current record for an international position player), so I can totally buy the $100M number, especially since Tomas is several years younger than Abreu and Castillo. It doesn’t sound far-fetched.

The Yankees have an obvious need for a big right-handed power bat and they have room on the roster for right field-type heading into next season. They’ve begun showing more interest in Cuban players this year, reportedly spending much more time scouting Aledmys Diaz and Castillo than they did Cespedes and Puig, even inviting them down to Tampa for private workouts. They didn’t sign either guy but it wasn’t because they didn’t take the time to evaluate them. Like I said, I expect them to do the same with Tomas out of due diligence if nothing else.

The jury is still out on Castillo and Diaz (and Jorge Soler and Alex Guerrero), but Cespedes, Puig, and especially Abreu have all exceeded expectations so far. Alexei Ramirez, Leonys Martin, Jose Iglesias, and Adeiny Hechavarria have all been pretty much exactly what they were expected to be. Dayan Viciedo is the only notable disappointment among the current crop of Cuban big leaguers. We’re talking position players only here, not pitchers. This small sample of players suggests Cuban players have a pretty high success rate when it comes to being at least serviceable big leaguers.

Tomas at the 2013 WBC. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)
(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

Does that mean Tomas will work out? Of course not. His propensity to swing-and-miss is a concern, especially since the pitching in Cuba is pretty weak, but 70 power (which is what Badler said Tomas has back in June) is an unteachable skill. Unteachable like Cespedes’ and Abreu’s power or Puig’s freakish athleticism. It’s also a very rare and valuable skill in this era where the entire league seems to have forgotten how to hit. If you want to dream, maybe the big righty pop and swing-and-miss-ability means he’s Alfonso Soriano without the steals. That would be pretty great, actually. Soriano was awesome in his 20s.

I think one of the reasons the Yankees passed on Castillo was because he is an imperfect fit for the roster. (Whether that’s right or wrong is another matter.) He was billed as a leadoff hitter type with strong defense, and, well, the Yankees already have two of those guys in Brett Gardner and Ellsbury. A third isn’t necessary. Tomas profiles more as a middle of the order hitter and that’s something the Yankees desperately need. Add in the fact that he is only 23 (four years younger than Castillo), has a strong right field-caliber arm, and plays a position of need, and you’ve got a player who makes a lot more sense for New York going forward.

As always, information about these Cuban players is very limited. Everything I know about the guy is in this post. The number of teams that pursue Tomas when he becomes a free agent — Cespedes, Abreu, and Castillo (and Masahiro Tanaka, he was in a similar situation) all had multiple top dollar suitors while the Dodgers reportedly blew everyone out of the water for Puig — will tell us more about how teams view him than anything Baseball America publishes. Teams don’t go hard after nobodies. The Yankees went all-in on Tanaka because he was an ace in his mid-20s. If Tomas is a middle of the order hitter in his early-20s, then they need to go all-in on him as well.

Yankees officially eliminated from AL East race; Rays walk-off with 1-0 win

For the second straight year, the Yankees will not be AL East champs. Monday night’s 1-0 walk-off loss to the Rays combined with the Orioles’ win over the Blue Jays eliminated New York from the division race. We all knew it was coming, but now it’s official.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Pitcher’s Duel
What luck, we were treated to another pitcher’s duel on Monday night! Chris Capuano and Alex Colome traded zeroes for the first six innings — the only runner to reach third base in those innings was Mark Teixeira thanks to two singles (Tex and Carlos Beltran) and a wild pitch in the second inning — until the bullpens took over in the seventh, when they started trading zeroes for another few innings. The game remained scoreless until Ben Zobrist’s two-out walk-off single in the ninth.

The game-losing rally was a classic feeble offense rally. Shawn Kelley allowed a one-out ground ball single to Logan Forsythe, then a soft line drive single to center to James Loney. Kelley rebounded to strike out David DeJesus, but he was left in to face pinch-hitter Matt Joyce and that resulted in a walk to load the bases. Rich Hill was warming up in the bullpen and Joyce is dreadful against lefties (11 wRC+!), but Joe Girardi stuck with Kelley for whatever reason. Zobrist followed with a soft line drive single to right to win the game. Nothing fancy, just a pitch that got too much of the plate.

The Yankees had two good opportunities to score earlier in the game. The first came in that second inning, when they managed to put runners at second and third with one out on the singles by Teixeira and Beltran plus the Colome wild pitch. Ichiro Suzuki popped up to shortstop for the second out and John Ryan Murphy was unable to get the big two-out hit. An Ichiro hustle double and a Murphy walk put runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh, but pinch-hitter Brian McCann popped up to end the threat. Very weird. That never happens.

Tampa had two good chances to score a run of their own against Capuano. A single (Zobrist), a wild pitch, and a walk (Wil Myers) put runners at first and second with one out in the first, but Yunel Escobar flew out weakly. Then, in the fifth, a Zobrist leadoff walk and a Brandon Guyer one-out single put men at first and second. Evan Longoria and Myers followed with hard-hit fly balls pretty much right at Brett Gardner to end that rally. It wasn’t until Kelley walked Zobrist that the Rays had a runner reach third base.

"I want to go back to the Padres where they score runs." (Presswire)
“I want to go back to the Padres where they score runs!” (Presswire)

Leftovers
Adam Warren rebounded from Friday’s blown save to retire all six batters he faced between Capuano and Kelley. Nice job by him. Kelley threw more balls (14) than strikes (13) and actually had his first real bad appearance in a month now. He allowed two runs total in his last 13 appearances. The Yankees suffered back-to-back walk-off losses for the first time since September 2011.

Chase Headley, who was playing in his first game since taking a pitch to the chin last week, was ejected in the middle of an at-bat in the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes. Can’t say I blame him for wanting to check out of this game early. I was hoping Stephen Drew would come off the bench to hit the post-mid-at-bat ejection homerun a la Colin Curtis, but nope.

Prado had two hits while Teixeira, Beltran, Ichiro, and Brendan Ryan had one each. Teixeira and Murphy had the team’s two walks. The Yankees have now been shut out five times in their last 16 games and are 3-6 in their last nine games. They’ve scored six runs in their last 47 innings. They stink.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. There are some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Yankees will end the night either five games back (Royals lose) or six games back (Royals win) of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 0.9%.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
These same two teams will play game two of this three-game series on Tuesday night, unfortunately. Over/under on the number of scoreless innings to start that game is set at 5.5. Big Mike Pineda and Jake Odorizzi will be the pitching matchup.

Game 149: Stay Alive

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
(Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Two weeks from now, the regular season will be over. There are only 14 games left in the Yankees’ season including tonight, and while they are mathematically still alive in the postseason race, they are an extreme long shot. In fact, a loss tonight coupled with an Orioles win over the Blue Jays would officially eliminate the Yankees from the AL East race. Let’s try to avoid that one more day, okay? Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 2B Martin Prado
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headleyfirst game back since being hit by the pitch in the chin last week
  7. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Brendan Ryan
    LHP Chris Capuano

It’s hot and humid in St. Petersburg, plus it’s been raining on and off all day. This is one of the days when the roof comes in handy. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.